Breann Abernathy

Hometown: Apple Valley, MN

Degree:  PhD in Nutritional Biochemistry with a minor in Molecular, Cellular, Developmental Biology, & Genetics

Breann Abernathy

Adviser: Dan Gallaher

Research focus: Evaluation of polylactose as a prebiotic dietary fiber

My research focuses on evaluating polylactose, a novel dietary fiber, for its prebiotic activity. I am evaluating its efficacy in altering the gut microbiome and preventing colon cancer, diabetes, obesity, NAFLD, and metabolic syndrome in both animal and human trials. Thus far, we have found that polylactose is vigorously fermentable in the colons of rats, and has shown a positive effect on regulating blood glucose. Moving to a human trial to assess changes in blood glucose control and the human gut microbiome will allow for further understanding of how polylactose can be useful in human consumption and commercialize a new product.

Interest in nutrition: I am interested in the intersection of genomics, molecular biology, and dietary constituents. Understanding how genomic regulation and disease states can be altered using various molecules found in the diet has been a long time interest of mine, and I just so happen to be pursuing that in this department.

Why UMN: I chose to stay at the U after my undergraduate program due to research interests and resources. As a research University, there are many resources and experts available to me that have been integral in my education and research. Further, my unique research interests happened to align with a couple of faculty here, specifically in this department, and I couldn't guarantee that I would find that elsewhere.

Research compatibility: Finding a PI with similar research can be challenging as an interdisciplinary student. Lucky for me, Dan has broad research interests with expertise in many areas, making him a good fit for me. Additional collaborators for my projects provide other resources that are necessary for my growth as a scientist.

Future plans: Upon graduation, I plan to stay in academia, starting either as a postdoc or new faculty member. I hope to continue research in the area of mechanisms of disease prevention.